Tunisian President Kais Saied made assurances on Friday that he will not adopt dictatorial powers in the wake of his dismissal of Tunisia’s parliament for 30 days and the sacking of the prime minister last Sunday. In the wake of these actions, Tunisia is experiencing a political crisis that threatens to unravel the gains made in the 2010-11 Tunisian Revolution. Saied’s moves on Sunday have brought on international scrutiny as critics and leaders of major political parties in Tunisia have accused the president of staging a coup. Concerns about the future of Tunisian democracy and the rights of its people increased Friday following the arrest of a parliamentarian and the investigation of leading opposition figures who took part in anti-Saied demonstrations earlier this week. A second member of parliament was arrested later in the day. Saied has removed the immunity of parliament members, making all of them vulnerable to arrest and imprisonment.
Saied’s moves to assume total executive control of the government apparently enjoys wide popular support. Tunisia is a nation which has dealt with corruption, economic stagnation and political deadlock for years. This situation has been worsened by a large surge in COVID-19 cases this year, essentially making a bad situation even worse. Although Tunisia is in the midst of a political crisis there have been no indications of unrest aside from Monday’s protest outside of the now-closed parliament building.
Nevertheless, there is growing concern outside of the country that Saied’s actions are unconstitutional and threaten Tunisia’s democracy. In order to temper these concerns and accusations, Saied needs to follow up his assurances with firm actions that demonstrate he is not crafting a dictatorship in Tunis.